Here’s a legal whoops: Fashion companies Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga sued what they thought was a vendor of counterfeit goods — only to find out that the site was owned by rival house Chanel.
Earlier in April, the companies filed suit in federal court in New York against MyPurseWorld.com, which sold counterfeit goods once upon a time. A court issued a restraining order to prevent Web hosts and internet service providers from doing business with the site.
But as of the summer of 2009, Chanel had acquired ownership of the site, according to Women’s Wear Daily. In June, 2009, a federal court in Florida transferred the domain ownership to Chanel, after it sued the site’s then-operator, Sean Dollinger. Chanel used the site to post a judgment notice from the earlier case and to spread information about other counterfeiters.
Chanel said that there was no merit to Gucci’s suit because the site is now devoted to anti-counterfeiting activities. In other words, the investigators who were working on behalf of Gucci didn’t bother to check the website and verify that it was selling counterfeit goods.
The sale of counterfeit goods online remains a huge problem, but even the U.S. government has a hard time quantifying the problem.
This accidental lawsuit only goes to show that the Internet isn’t a static thing. One day, a website may be selling counterfeit goods. The next day it may be a tool in helping to stop their sale. And it never hurts to hit “reload” in your browser.